In a continuation of my 2014 catalog revitalization, I have re-released Chasing the Light, with a redesigned cover and a fresh editing pass. I’ve also updated the dates referenced, since the years originally cited in the original 2008 novel have already reached us, and I wanted this novel to remain just a few years in our future.
Revisiting this novel caused me to think about so many of the technologies mentioned in the story: At the time of the original writing, these were technologies on the drawing board, and expected to be well into production, if not ready for sale, in just a few years; yet, six years after the original writing of this novel, these technologies have still not come to pass, or in most cases, have not even moved into preliminary production stages. What happened?
To be sure, many of the technologies mentioned have a direct connection with the novel’s central theme, the impact on the United States of a popular revolt against the oil companies’ constant efforts to stymie progress to a post-oil future. The novel opens with the first of The Oil Riots, with the public not only attacking the government for their bribery-based inaction, but going after known oil officials and employees for being directly responsible, or even partially complicit, in the corruption. The result of the Oil Riots is a series of changes in technology and transportation, based on existing and being-developed technologies that I researched when developing the novel.
One of those changes was the introduction of many alternate modes of transportation, most of them electric-powered. Not only bicycles and scooters have become more commonplace, especially among the lower income segment, but three-wheeled single occupancy vehicles, or “trikes,” have become regular fixtures on American roads. Much like the vehicles in Sarcology, these trikes, and larger vehicles right up to transport trailers, can drive themselves, allowing a computer to do all the work and use the minimum amount of energy possible.
At the original time of writing, quite a few small ventures had been developing small vehicles, both gas-powered and electric, for most of a decade; I was anticipating at least a few of these vehicles being available to the public within 5 years, and more to come. Six years later, it’s as if all of the developing efforts were sealed in ice, with no hope of thawing any time soon.
Other technologies being developed in 2008 included the solar-thermal antenna arrays that the character Tom Everson hopes to sell in America. Developed at Idaho National Laboratory, this very real technology is capable of being fitted to photovoltaic arrays and capturing the heat energy that would otherwise be wasted by standard photovoltaic cells (and which, when built up too greatly, actually diminish the efficiency of photovoltaic cells). A little bit of searching on the web reveals any number of improvements to photovoltaic systems, either additional layers of materials, cheaper substrates, more efficient manufacturing techniques and even cheaper overseas products, are being reported every day.
Yet—somehow—these technologies have languished, gone unreported, or become disgraced or disparaged, or taxed and tarriffed, leaving them either unknown, unpopular or unaffordable.
It’s almost as if there really is a conspiracy to block alternative energy systems, while making sure oil-based energy remains dominant. But that would be paranoid.
These days, it’s pretty hard to get Americans up in arms over anything; but it seems that the dysfunctional nature of our government, quite obviously allowing themselves to be swayed by special interests and transparent bribes to the point of deadlocking every issue and stubbornly maintaining the status quo, is coming closer to getting the people’s goat than any single issue. We’ve even had a few moments recently that have driven segments of the public to actively discuss marching on the Capital and taking action against the constant Congressional foot-dragging.
Of course, discussion is a long way from grabbing the torches and pitchforks and storming downtown. But as time goes by, I believe the possibility of its happening becomes greater and greater; and I suspect that all it will take is the right act, the last domino pushed over, to start the process.
Chasing the Light‘s premise is that the Oil Riots trigger the development of these technologies, fast-tracking them into our use and acceptance into our daily lives. In reality, I believed some, if not all of the technologies depicted, would not need a revolt to happen. On that note, maybe I was wrong.
If such a revolt took place, the chain of events depicted in Chasing the Light are one possible outcome. Maybe not the worst of possibilities; but if such events meant freeing up the logjam of alternative and efficient technologies, and giving us a better and cleaner world in the process… it would certainly be among the better outcomes.